Forty nine wooden caskets containing the remains of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who expired due to virus infection, including those who died of natural causes, were airlifted to Villamor Air Base (VAB) on Friday from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).
A Philippine Airlines (PAL) A330 aircraft with call sign RP-C8781, brought the mortal remains from Riyadh and Dammam in the Middle East.
The PAL plane flew from Manila to Riyadh on Thursday via PR 682 to fetch the remains of the OFWs. From Riyadh, the A330 flew to Dammam to fetch another batch before proceeding to Manila via PR 683.
“The flag carrier joins the nation in expressing its condolences and sympathies to the bereaved families of our OFWs. It is an honor for Philippine Airlines to fly our country’s modern-day heroes home to their motherland,” PAL said in a news statement.
“Our OFWs left the Philippines to seek greener pastures. They left the comforts of being with family in order to work in a foreign land, enabling them to provide sustenance for loved ones through sheer hard work.”
PAL thanked the Department of Labor and Employment, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for working together to ensure the repatriation of our 49 modern-day heroes.
A blessing ceremony by the Air Force Chaplain was carried out at the VAB grounds. Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who chairs the National Task Force against Covid-19 honored the dead and hailed them for their contributions to their families and their country.
Present during the ceremony were Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, National Task Force Covid-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and PAL Vice President for Security, Gen. Ceasar Ronnie Ordoyo, representing PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Gilbert Santa Maria.
The Philippine Air Force has been tasked to fly the remains to their respective home provinces.
The homecoming came nearly a week after the government missed its July 4 target of airlifting the deceased home due to logistical issues.
Riyadh gave a 72-hour ultimatum for the Philippine government to repatriate 301 OFWs who died in the kingdom weeks ago.
The remains of another 44 OFWs, also from Saudi Arabia, are scheduled to arrive on Monday.